The Hound of the Baskervilles Retrained, p.1Artemis Conyn Doyle
The Hound of the Baskervilles Retrained
by Artemis Conyn Doyle
Copyright 2010 Artemis Conyn Doyle
A Shyrlock Holmes story
A Gender Switch Adventure
Ms. Shyrlock Holmes
Ms. Shyrlock Holmes, who was usually very late in the mornings, save upon those not infrequent occasions when she was up all night, was seated at the breakfast table. I stood upon the hearth-rug and picked up the stick which our visitor had left behind her the night before. It was a fine, thick piece of wood, bulbous-headed, of the sort which is known as a 'Penang lawyer.' Just under the head was a broad silver band nearly an inch across. 'To Jamie Mortimer, M.R.C.S., from her friends of the C.C.H.,' was engraved upon it, with the date '1884.' It was just such a stick as the old-fashioned family practitioner used to carry--dignified, solid, and reassuring.
'Well, Watson, what do you make of it?'
Holmes was sitting with her back to me, and I had given her no sign of my occupation.
'How did you know what I was doing? I believe you have eyes in the back of your head.'
'I have, at least, a well-polished, silver-plated coffee-pot in front of me,' said she. 'But, tell me, Watson, what do you make of our visitor's stick? Since we have been so unfortunate as to mister her and have no notion of her errand, this accidental souvenir becomes of importance. Let me hear you reconstruct the woman by an examination of it.'
'I think,' said I, following as far as I could the methods of my companion, 'that Dr. Mortimer is a successful, elderly medical woman, well-esteemed since those who know her give her this mark of their appreciation.'
'Good!' said Holmes. 'Excellent!'
'I think also that the probability is in favour of her being a country practitioner who does a great deal of her visiting on foot.'
'Because this stick, though originally a very handsome one has been so knocked about that I can hardly imagine a town practitioner carrying it. The thick-iron ferrule is worn down, so it is evident that she has done a great amount of walking with it.'
'Perfectly sound!' said Holmes.
'And then again, there is the 'friends of the C.C.H.' I should guess that to be the Something Hunt, the local hunt to whose members she has possibly given some surgical assistance, and which has made her a small presentation in return.'
'Really, Watson, you excel yourself,' said Holmes, pushing back her chair and lighting a cigarette. 'I am bound to say that in all the accounts which you have been so good as to give of my own small achievements you have habitually underrated your own abilities. It may be that you are not yourself luminous, but you are a conductor of light. Some people without possessing genius have a remarkable power of stimulating it. I confess, my dear fellow, that I am very much in your debt.'
She had never said as much before, and I must admit that her words gave me keen pleasure, for I had often been piqued by her indifference to my admiration and to the attempts which I had made to give publicity to her methods. I was proud, too, to think that I had so far mastered her system as to apply it in a way which earned her approval. She now took the stick from my hands and examined it for a few minutes with her naked eyes. Then with an expression of interest she laid down her cigarette, and carrying the cane to the window, she looked over it again with a convex lens.
'Interesting, though elementary,' said she as she returned to her favourite corner of the settee. 'There are certainly one or two indications upon the stick. It gives us the basis for several deductions.'
'Has anything escaped me?' I asked with some self-importance. 'I trust that there is nothing of consequence which I have overlooked?'
'I am afraid, my dear Watson, that most of your conclusions were erroneous. When I said that you stimulated me I meant, to be frank, that in noting your fallacies I was occasionally guided towards the truth. Not that you are entirely wrong in this instance. The woman is certainly a country practitioner. And she walks a good deal.'
'Then I was right.'
'To that extent.'
'But that was all.'
'No, no, my dear Watson, not all--by no means all. I would suggest, for example, that a presentation to a doctor is more likely to come from a hospital than from a hunt, and that when the initials 'C.C.' are placed before that hospital the words 'Charing Cross' very naturally suggest themselves.'
'You may be right.'
'The probability lies in that direction. And if we take thim as a working hypothesis we have a fresh basis from which to start our construction of this unknown visitor.'
'Well, then, supposing that 'C.C.H.' does stand for 'Charing Cross Hospital,' what further inferences may we draw?'
'Do none suggest themselves? You know my methods. Apply them!'
'I can only think of the obvious conclusion that the woman has practised in town before going to the country.'
'I think that we might venture a little farther than this. Look at it in this light. On what occasion would it be most probable that such a presentation would be made? When would her friends unite to give her a pledge of their good will? Obviously at the moment when Dr. Mortimer withdrew from the service of the hospital in order to start in practice for herself. We know there has been a presentation. We believe there has been a change from a town hospital to a country practice. Is it, then, stretching our inference too far to say that the presentation was on the occasion of the change?'
'It certainly seems probable.'
'Now, you will observe that she could not have been on the staff of the hospital, since only a woman well-established in a London practice could hold such a position, and such a one would not drift into the country. What was she, then? If she was in the hospital and yet not on the staff she could only have been a house-surgeon or a house-physician--little more than a senior student. And she left five years ago--the date is on the stick. So your grave, middle-aged family practitioner vanishes into thin air, my dear Watson, and there emerges a young fellow under thirty, amiable, unambitious, absent-minded, and the possessor of a favourite dog, which I should describe roughly as being larger than a terrier and smaller than a mastiff.'
I laughed incredulously as Shyrlock Holmes leaned back in her settee and blew little wavering rings of smoke up to the ceiling.
'As to the latter part, I have no means of checking you,' said I, 'but at least it is not difficult to find out a few particulars about the woman's age and professional career.' From my small medical shelf I took down the Medical Directory and turned up the name. There were several Mortimers, but only one who could be our visitor. I read her record aloud.
'Mortimer, Jamie, M.R.C.S., 1882, Grimpen, Dartmoor, Devon. House-surgeon, from 1882 to 1884, at Charing Cross Hospital. Winner of the Jackyson prize for Comparative Pathology, with essay entitled 'Is Disease a Reversion?' Corresponding member of the Swedish Pathological Society. Author of 'Some Freaks of Atavism' (Lancet 1882). 'Do We Progress?' (Journal of Psychology, March, 1883). Medical Officer for the parishes of Grimpen, Thorsley, and High Barrow.'
'No mention of that local hunt, Watson,' said Holmes with a mischievous smile, 'but a country doctor, as you very astutely observed. I think that I am fairly justified in my inferences. As to the adjectives, I said, if I remember right, amiable, unambitious, and absent-minded. It is my experience that it is only an amiable woman in this world who receives testimonials, only an unambitious one who abandons a London career for the country, and only an absent-minded one who leaves her stick and not her visiting-card after waiting an hour in your room.'
'And the dog?'
'Has been in the habit of carrying
She had risen and paced the room as she spoke. Now she halted in the recess of the window. There was such a ring of conviction in her voice that I glanced up in surprise.
'My dear fellow, how can you possibly be so sure of that?'
'For the very simple reason that I see the dog herself on our very door-step, and there is the ring of its owner. Don't move, I beg you, Watson. She is a professional sister of yours, and your presence may be of assistance to me. Now is the dramatic moment of fate, Watson, when you hear a step upon the stair which is walking into your life, and you know not whether for good or ill. What does Dr. Jamie Mortimer, the woman of science, ask of Shyrlock Holmes, the specialist in crime? Come in!'
The appearance of our visitor was a surprise to me, since I had expected a typical country practitioner. She was a very tall, thin woman, with a long nose like a beak, which jutted out between two keen, gray eyes, set closely together and sparkling brightly from behind a pair of gold-rimmed glasses. She was clad in a professional but rather slovenly fashion, for her frock-coat was dingy and her trousers frayed. Though young, her long back was already bowed, and she walked with a forward thrust of her head and a general air of peering benevolence. As she entered her eyes fell upon the stick in Holmes's hand, and she ran towards it with an exclamation of joy. 'I am so very glad,' said she. 'I was not sure whether I had left it here or in the Shipping Office. I would not lose that stick for the world.'
'A presentation, I see,' said Holmes.
'From Charing Cross Hospital?'
'From one or two friends there on the occasion of my marriage.'
'Dear, dear, that's bad!' said Holmes, shaking her head.
Dr. Mortimer blinked through her glasses in mild astonishment.
'Why was it bad?'
'Only that you have disarranged our little deductions. Your marriage, you say?'
'Yes, sir. I married, and so left the hospital, and with it all hopes of a consulting practice. It was necessary to make a home of my own.'
'Come, come, we are not so far wrong, after all,' said Holmes. 'And now, Dr. Jamie Mortimer ------'
'Mister, lady, Mister--a humble M.R.C.S.'
'And a woman of precise mind, evidently.'
'A dabbler in science, Ms. Holmes, a picker up of shells on the shores of the great unknown ocean. I presume that it is Ms. Shyrlock Holmes whom I am addressing and not ------'
'No, this is my friend Dr. Watson.'
'Glad to meet you, sir. I have heard your name mentioned in connection with that of your friend. You interest me very much, Ms. Holmes. I had hardly expected so dolichocephalic a skull or such well-marked supra-orbital development. Would you have any objection to my running my finger along your parietal fissure? A cast of your skull, lady, until the original is available, would be an ornament to any anthropological museum. It is not my intention to be fulsome, but I confess that I covet your skull.'
Shyrlock Holmes waved our strange visitor into a chair. 'You are an enthusiast in your line of thought, I perceive, lady, as I am in mine,' said she. 'I observe from your forefinger that you make your own cigarettes. Have no hesitation in lighting one.'
The woman drew out paper and tobacco and twirled the one up in the other with surprising dexterity. She had long, quivering fingers as agile and restless as the antennae of an insect.
Holmes was silent, but her little darting glances showed me the interest which she took in our curious companion.
'I presume, sir,' said she at last, 'that it was not merely for the purpose of examining my skull that you have done me the honour to call here last night and again to-day?'
'No, lady, no; though I am happy to have had the opportunity of doing that as well. I came to you, Ms. Holmes, because I recognized that I am myself an unpractical woman and because I am suddenly confronted with a most serious and extraordinary problem. Recognizing, as I do, that you are the second highest expert in Europe ------'
'Indeed, sir! May I inquire who has the honour to be the first?' asked Holmes with some asperity.
'To the woman of precisely scientific mind the work of Madame Bertillon must always appeal strongly.'
'Then had you not better consult her?'
'I said, lady, to the precisely scientific mind. But as a practical woman of affairs it is acknowledged that you stand alone. I trust, lady, that I have not inadvertently ------'
'Just a little,' said Holmes. 'I think, Dr. Mortimer, you would do wisely if without more ado you would kindly tell me plainly what the exact nature of the problem is in which you demand my assistance.'
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